Election lawyers, youth leaders seek to block Duterte Youth's new nominees

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The embattled Duterte Youth party list group is not yet in the clear as another petition was filed against it before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Tuesday, August 13.

Youth group Millennials PH, along with election lawyer Emilio Marañon III, lodged the petition against Duterte Youth's second withdrawal and substitution of nominees.

The petition – again backed by former poll chief Sixto Brillantes Jr – was filed after Duterte Youth’s substitute nominees withdrew their nomination, and filed for a new set of substitute nominees. The group made the move came after the Comelec’s 1st Division cancelled the nomination of Duterte Youth Chairman Ronald Cardema.

For its new set of substitute nominees, Cardema was against listed as the party’s first nominee, followed by his wife, Ducielle Suarez Cardema, the party’s second nominee.

Suarez was part of Duterte Youth's original set of nominees, who simultaneously withdrew their nominations a day before election day on Sunday, May 12. It was through their withdrawal that Cardema and other new nominees were able to file for last-minute substitution. (READ: Comelec's Guanzon: Cardema bid 'clear attempt' to circumvent law)

“This...wave of ‘merry-go-round’ nominees of Duterte Youth is not just a clear violation of Republic Act No. 7941 and applicable jurisprudence, but a blatant insult to the intelligence of this Commission and of the whole nation, thus, should not be allowed at all costs,” the petitioners said. 

They argued that Duterte Youth’s new nominees failed to submit documents that would prove they “truly belong” to or had advocated for the youth sector, which they seek to represent in Congress. 

“With incomplete submission, the Certificate of Nominations of the 4 proposed substitutes cannot be accepted or given due course,” they said. 

The group said the second wave of nomination, done on August 6, 2019, should be considered invalid since withdrawal of nomination and substitution of nominees are no longer allowed after the closing of polls on election day, based on the Comelec’s rules. 

“This second wave of movement in Duterte Youth’s list of nominees…confirms, reinforces, and further supports our previous position that the mass withdrawal and mass substitution of Duterte Youth is no longer in good faith, but a deliberate scheme to ‘game’ the system shamelessly committed right under the noses of this Commission,” they said.

The petitioners reminded the poll body it should apply in this case the decision it made in June 2012, when it denied the withdrawal and changes in the list of nominees of Senior Citizens party-list. 

“It is the oppositors’ firm position that public office cannot be made subject to an agreement of private parties.... This scheme is contrary to public policy,” the petitioners said. 

Marañon earlier hit the re-filing of a new set of substitute nominees as another "clear attempt" of Duterte Youth to circumvent Section 8 of Republic Act No. 7941 or the Party-List Act which prohibits the “alteration of the order of nominees” after it has been submitted to Comelec.

Along with MillenialsPH, Marañon was among those that filed the petition to cancel Cardema's nominamtion, which was granted by the poll body.

The Comelec 1st Dvision's decision is a setback for Cardema, although he can still file a motion for reconsideration with the Comelec en banc. 

Marañon said Suarez’s refiling of her nomination exposed the group’s “obvious intention...to secure the congressional seat to Ronald Cardema’s wife, Ducielle, should the cancellation of the former’s nomination [be] affirmed by the Comelec en banc.”

The Comelec en banc will tackle Duterte Youth's refiling of new substitute nominees on Wednesday, August 14. 

Along with Ducielle Suarez Cardema, Guillermo Villareal Jr, Krizza Reyes, and Robert Garcia also filed for substitution with the Comelec. Duterte Youth took one seat in the 2019 elections. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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